Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.


In 1987 I was a college student, and – like most kids in school – I was very confused about which way my life was headed. I came into my senior year with a GPA only a college jock could be proud of, too. Which was true, cause I was a jock, and I played that role very well. Problem was, my time was almost over. I had to declare a major, and my athletic counselor suggested history…cause it was “easiest”.

Her words.

I chose English. I liked to write, and I like to read – biographies on all the people I looked up to, mostly. So why not English Lit? Problem was, none of the books I read were curriculum, of course.

I had no idea about Beowulf, or Chaucer, or almost anything Shakespeare ever wrote – and I really still don’t; Milton and Dante and Blake were a mystery to me; I kinda liked the 19th century American writers – specifically Stephen Crane; I threw away Absalom, Absalom! in disgust – I mean literally…like, in the trash can; however, Hem and Steinbeck and Scotty Fitz were cool; and then, one day, I walked into a movie theater cause Mickey Rourke was playing a down-and-out poet, and I still liked Rourke enough back then to cough up 6 bucks and watch him act.

This was, of course, before “Harley Davidson and The Marlboro Man”.

Rourke played Charles Bukowski; the movie was Barfly. After it ended, I walked out of that theater and immediately to the used bookstore across the street, where I scored a rather dog-eared copy of Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame.

A book that would alter my life for the next decade or so. Maybe even to this point.

From there, I found the Beats, and Kerouac, and Corso, and Old Billy Boy, and sure enough, Allen Ginsberg. Devoured a lot of it, although Burroughs maddened me, and Allen was too homoerotic most of the time for my tastes, and Corso kinda bored me, and sure, On The Road was great, but, to tell you the truth, I liked Visions of Gerard more.

Until I reread On The Road.

50 years ago today City Lights published Howl. It got Ferlinghetti into a lot of trouble. It was a dirty book, and some people don’t like dirty things, so they use all their might – political and otherwise – to control everyone around them…because that’s the kind of shitty people they are. The conservatives ruled then, and a Senator named Joe McCarthy was lying his ass off and ruining peoples’ lives in the name of battling The Enemy (then called “Communists”) in order to increase his power. Most Americans were afraid about almost everything, cause that’s the way the government wanted them to feel.

Funny how some things never change.

Anyways, reading Bukowski and The Beats made me turn back to Beowulf, and Chaucer and I reread them, and this time I liked them – and almost understood what they were saying. I still avoided almost anything Shakespeare ever wrote – as well as Milton and Dante.

But not Blake or Faulkner.

I haven’t read anything in almost four years…about the same time I’ve been making dirty movies. I did go out and buy Charles Frazier’s new book, and The Best American Comics for 2006 – the R. Crumb story about his brother Charles made that book worth every cent.

I haven’t scouted for used books in almost four years…about the same time I’ve been making dirty movies. I’ve scored some beauties, too, over the years…bought and sold them lots of times, my all-time favorite being a Ray Johnson book that had a piece of his art laid into the front page. Or maybe some of the Bukowski titles that had original paintings by him, tipped right into the book itself, too. Ed Abbey and Tim O’Brien and Thomas Pynchon and Toni Morrison and Flannery O’Connor and William T. Vollmann; Hem and Steinbeck and Scotty Fitz and old James Joyce in Paris, with Gertrude Stein making sure they were all OK.

And you scurvy fucks think I’m a dumb pervert…which is entirely untrue: I’m the smartest fucking pervert you’ll ever get to know.

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